Thursday, December 28, 2006

Remember me telling you about how wonderful my parents are? Well they’re even better than I thought. They won’t accept thank you notes, so I’m going to post my gratitude here for all the world to see! Christmas day they showered us with gifts, as usual. But about half way through dinner they insisted that we all stop eating because they couldn’t wait for us to open our last packages. We then proceeded to unwrap what was one of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received. They gave us (or rather, me) a treasured bracelet. It's an object so special to them that at first I couldn’t even imagine accepting it. We tried to give it back, but my parents were positively giddy about the idea of relinquishing it. They continued to insist that they would enjoy it more if we owned it than if they did. My brother-in-law was actually convinced that my parents must be dying – why else would they be willing to give something like this up? The answer is that they are truly the most generous people I have ever known. I feel downright miserly in comparison. Their treasure is in heaven and they ACT like it. For me it was so convicting to see how lightly they hold onto the things of this world, and how much joy they found in the pleasure of others. I’ve been challenged lately about what it means to be a joyful giver, and specifically what it means to send your treasure on ahead, through a little book I would highly recommend called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. I am blessed, though, to not just own a great book on the subject, but to have two living examples not 3 miles away! So thanks Mom and Dad. Not just for my exquisite gift, but for your lives.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Having children, both biological and now adopted, has given me insight into certain truths of Scripture that I’ve never even thought about before. Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that Mary worshipped her son. I’m often tempted to worship my children by making them more important than my relationship with God, or by admiring their qualities without giving honor to their Maker. Of course the desire of my heart is to honor God above all else, but practically, my three little blessings can distract me from Him if I’m not careful. Mary was free from that temptation because her son really was her Lord. What a feeling that must have been, to cuddle, tickle, feed and stare at the face of God! Amazing to think that by admiring and being absorbed in, and completely falling in love with her child, she was actually worshipping her Savior. Luke 1:47 records Mary’s feelings in her words: “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” I’m sure she would be appalled to know how many people today worship her as the way to God. Clearly she recognized Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” and that no one could “come to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6), because even after His death, resurrection and ascension, Mary continued to identify with the true believers (Acts 1:14). Her love for Christ was not just the affection of a mother for her baby boy, it was the love of a heart saved from sin and transformed by His grace. My prayer is that I (and you!) can also learn to love the baby of Christmas as Mary did. That we might not leave Him there in the manger, but instead might declare what Simeon did when he looked at the infant Christ: “my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples” (Luke 2:30).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good news and bad news. The good news is we received a new picture of Reagan today! I’m not sure exactly when it was taken but she already looks so much bigger! Her little arms and legs have really filled out and we can finally see her hands. All of the families who have traveled to her orphanage thus far have mentioned they were very impressed with the care the children receive, but it’s reassuring to see for ourselves that our baby seems to be thriving.
The bad news is that there is a problem with our paperwork. Back in May we each had a physical, and later came back with a notary to have medical clearance letters signed and notarized. Unfortunately those letters expire next week and there’s no way they’ll be translated and “logged in” at the Vietnamese Dept of International Adoption before then. In anticipation of this problem we went through the whole process again in November – new exam, new notary, new letters – which is a bit tricky considering Dan and I have different doctors, neither of them have a notary in the building, each require a real appointment to sign the letters, and traveling notaries are expensive! But we got it all done and sent in to the Secretary of State in early December. They should have been returned by now, so our agency checked into it and determined that the letters would be rejected because our notary neglected to fill in the dates properly! They probably won’t be able to start processing the rest of our dossier until those letters are fixed, authenticated by the Secretary of State of California (which, by the way, is apparently the worst one of the 50 to work with), consularized by the Vietnamese consulate in San Fransisco, approved by our agency in Tulsa, and then finally forwarded to Vietnam. When all is said and done, this will probably set us back at least two weeks.
Okay, reading back over what I just wrote I imagine you’re probably all bored and overwhelmed with way too much information. Let’s just sum it up by saying, please pray that this will all get worked out quickly, that the translation process can be expedited, and that we’ll be able to catch up to the other two families we hope to be able to travel with. Maybe too this has given you a little glimpse into what we all go through to get these babies home! Thanks in advance for your prayers, and enjoy the new photo of our little peanut!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

And the name is... Reagan! After much debate and much time convincing a very determined four-year-old that it IS a girl name, we have finally decided on Reagan Van-Thao ~. Alyssa was determined to name her Kiara and insisted that even if we decided to give her a different name she would still call her Kiara. She wasn't actually defiant about it, just resolved in a pretty cute way. Already she is so protective of and excited about her new sister. One of the first things we did upon receiving our referral was to upload Reagan’s picture to Costco and have about 2 dozen copies printed. Immediately after we picked them up, Alyssa asked for her copy and tape and promptly taped it to the wall next to her bed. She also has a wallet-sized copy and shows her sister to everyone! Parker also, though only 2 ½, knows that he’s a big brother and talks about his little sister all the time. I’m sure at some point they’re going to start to wonder if this is really going to happen, but at least now they have a face to love on!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yesterday we signed our official acceptance papers! Of course I was determined to get them completed and returned the same day, but that proved to be quite a feat considering I didn’t get home to see the instructions until 1:30, Dan was at work which is 35 minutes away, the package needed to include a thoughtful letter to the orphanage director, everything had to be notarized in triplicate and the post office’s cut-off time is 4pm. By God’s grace we got it all together, and though I missed the 4 o’clock deadline by 18 minutes, the express mail carrier was still there and took it anyway. Needless to say I had a stress headache by the time I finally in the car to drive home in LA’s rush-hour traffic.
This post, however, is really about the amazing mother that I have. When I called her at 1:30 she dropped everything, came over with my dad, helped me fill out some of the paperwork, and stayed with the kids while they were sleeping so I didn’t have to drag 2 nap-less kids to the notary with me. And that is so typical of both my parents and my in-laws. All of them will gladly set aside whatever is on their agendas to be with our kids. But what she left behind at our house yesterday is what has me in tears here over how wonderful she is. Sitting in front of me is a journal she has made for our new daughter. From the day we first told my parents we were going to pursue adoption, she has secretly and lovingly documented each step of the way. Included are photographs of important people and events, commentary on each little bit of adoption news, related newspaper articles, posts from our agency’s adoption forum – everything you could think of, and details I’ve forgotten – ending with our first family “portrait” from Friday after we told her the fabulous news. I put off reading it until naptime this afternoon. Dan read it last night and he was nearly in tears, so I knew I couldn’t start until I could be alone for a while. It is a treasure not only because of its value as a keepsake for our daughter, but also because of the depth of her love revealed in it. I knew that I could love a baby not born to me, but its so comforting to be assured of the love already growing the hearts of those around us for this precious baby girl. Love that existed long before our daughter was even conceived! An added blessing will be that my parents are planning on traveling with us to Vietnam so they’ll get to share in that incredible moment when we see their newest granddaughter’s face for the first time in person. God is so gracious to have given me such an incredible family all the way around!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Here's another attempt to post a picture of our precious baby girl. I know it's so small and so grainy but it's the only one we have. I thought that perhaps if I cropped it down to just her face you could get a better idea what she looks like. Our agency is going to try to get another picture for us soon, but their offices in Vietnam are quite some distance from her orphanage so I imagine the updates will be few and far between. We'll take what we can get! The funny thing is, for the millions of times I know I will examine this photo between now and the day we finally hold her in our arms, she won't look like this at all by the time that day comes. I will just treasure every piece I can collect from her life before she's finally ours and guard each one carefully until I can pass them on to her someday.
Our daughter now has a face, but no longer has a name. Of course she has a Vietnamese name, part of which we’ll use as her middle name, but we want to give her an American first name. For 16 months we’ve been calling her Savannah. We agreed on that name almost immediately after we decided to adopt a little girl and you’ll notice that it still appears in my profile to your left. However, now that this is all starting to feel very real, Savannah just doesn’t seem quite right. Naming someone is a big chore! A privilege, but a weighty one, and making the choice together with a man and a very opinionated 4 year-old is proving difficult. Alyssa has begun informing God in her every prayer regarding her sister that we’re going to be changing her name. Just in case God gets confused! I’m feeling pressure to name her now in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. My deadline before last Friday was to have a name by the time we picked her up, but now that we know who she is and know that she’s born, it seems quite sad to me that she’s still nameless. So we’re open to suggestions! On the short list right now are Reagan and Ashlyn. What do you think?!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

While it may seem like our wait is over, we are really just starting a different kind of wait. In some ways this part will be harder - our girl will be growing up without us - but in other ways I imagine it will be easier - at least there's a goal in sight and some assurance that this really is going to happen. Since many of you have already asked why we can't just go pick her up now, following is an exerpt from a letter our agency sent us a while back.

After a referral of a child has been accepted and the family has returned the paperwork to Dillon, we will prepare the acceptance documents to be sent to Vietnam. The following is an outline of what occurs once your paperwork arrives in Vietnam:

Your dossier and acceptance papers are sent to Ho Chi Minh City to our attorney, Thomas. When Thomas receives your dossier, he will forward it to a translator. The translation process can take 1-3 weeks.

After your dossier has completed the translation process, Thomas will send it to the
International Adoption Department (IAD) in Ha Noi. The IAD will review your dossier, and, if they are satisfied with all the documents, they will give your dossier a log-in date. You can estimate you will travel within 3-6 months of this log-in date.

After the IAD has given your dossier a log-in date, they will send a letter to your child’s province requesting that the Local Justice Department begin compiling your child’s legal documents, which is also called the child’s dossier. This process can take up to 30 business days.

Once the IAD in Ha Noi receives your child’s dossier, they will review your child’s dossier and your dossier. After they are satisfied with all the dossier documents, they will forward your family's dossier and the child's dossier back to your child’s Local Justice Department in your child’s province.

When the Local Justice Department in your child’s province receives your dossier and your child’s dossier, they will forward the dossier documents to the People’s Committee and then the People’s Committee will set a date and time for the Giving and Receiving Ceremony.

Families should have approximately two weeks notice before travel.

Please remember that due to this being a new and evolving program, the process and timeframes outlined above can change without notice.

So all that to say, though we're overwhelmingly grateful for this early Christmas gift, we won't get to enjoy her fully until at least Easter! In the meantime please pray with us that everything will go smoothly throughout this process and that we'll see our girl sooner rather than later.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Today is THE day! The day we have been praying for! The day we got the fabulous phone call we’ve been waiting so many months for! Today we were introduced to our DAUGHTER! She is a precious little thing, only 6 weeks old, and only 5 ½ pounds. Our biological children were over 8 ½ lbs and 7 ½ lbs respectively at birth, so I can’t even imagine what such a tiny baby would feel like. Of course she’ll grow quite a bit between now and the time we meet her in person, but I think we’ll probably still get to reuse all of Alyssa’s clothes – even the tiniest things! For some reason I was just sure that we’d be bringing home a toddler, so to think that we have an infant – well it’s just better than I could have imagined. God is so good! The funny thing is, the last few days I’ve really been meditating on the fact that God is good all the time. He’s not any more or less good based on my experience, and I can praise Him for His goodness no matter the circumstance. But I have to say that I am more in awe of His grace in my life today that I was yesterday! He even answered my prayers that our daughter would have a known birthday (not just an assumed one), a real birth certificate, and that she would be relinquished (not abandoned). I really am overwhelmed! I’ll post more later (in fact, you’re unlikely to read of anything else here for a while) but for now I need to stop and enjoy the two precious babies that are already in our home!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We had sick kiddos this weekend. Nothing major and they’re both now fully recovered, so I can post just how adorable they are when they’re under the weather. Normally they are both way to busy to cuddle, so a willingness to sit is my first indication that something is wrong. Cleaning up the inevitable results of the flu is not fun, and I feel so sorry for them, but I do cherish the opportunity to baby them a little. Here they are, comforting each other on the couch, fully engrossed in Curious George – a rare treat reserved for sick days.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I’m not an animal person. Never have been… probably never will be. It’s not that I’m afraid, or don’t think most pets are pretty cute, but they’re generally either dirty or require a ton of work to keep them from being so. The only possible exception is a cat but my husband is allergic so that’s out. I know most of you out there will disagree. Many of you will think that I’m depriving my children by not giving them a furry pet, but you don’t have to clean up after it. All of that said, however, my sister bought the kids a fish last February. She was babysitting for the evening and Alyssa convinced her that we needed a pet. The kids’ first choice was an elephant, followed by a giraffe, but finally decided that a fish was better than nothing. I was okay with that little surprise because I figured it would be dead within the week. Boy was I was wrong. Here it is now December and Mo is as alive as ever. Since when do goldfish live 10 months?! Even Pecadillo, a friend of ours and son of Pyromaniac, who used to maintain fish tanks for a living, is amazed that we're still nurturing the original Mo. A few weeks ago, however, we had a close call. I came home one afternoon to find Mo floating at the top of the fishbowl. A friend called just moments later and we discussed just what you do when a fish dies during naptime. Do you call said sister and have her bring a replacement fish before the kids wake up? Or do you plunge into that conversation on death with a 2 ½ and 4 year-old? Fortunately I didn’t have to answer that question because thanks to the miracle of the internet I discovered that our fish likely had swim bladder disease and he was floating because he had too much gas in his stomach. The cure? A frozen pea. Yes, a pea. So I thawed and squished the pea, fed it to Mo, and a few hours later he was swimming as normal. In the weeks since the first incident he has floated to the top several more times, but I finally purchased a higher quality fish food ($3 for a 6-month supply vs. $1.50) and he now seems to be cured! I feel rather ridiculous going to all this effort for a fish, but after 10 months you actually get a little attached! Good news is, Alyssa has discerned that Mo has been sick and already knows what pet she wants when Mo dies – a mouse!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My little girl is growing up. Last week Alyssa insisted I remove the nightlight from her room. “Four-year-olds need a cozy dark room, mama” she said. I thought it was all talk (she is very brave in theory – not so much in practice) and that within a few minutes she’d be asking me to plug it back in. But no! She slept well all night in what is now a very dark room, and has slept without it every night since. She’s even planned out how she’s going to remove the nightlights from the rooms she sleeps in at her grandmas’ homes. I know it seems like such a small thing, but for some reason it really made me emotional. I have loved every stage of our children’s lives so far. I know I’ll love the next stages too. But the passing of each stage brings us one step closer to the day when she’ll leave us to start a life of her own. I’m even dreading school. In just 9 short months she’ll be starting kindergarten and I’ll never again get to be with her all day every day. Some people probably think that I’m cheating our children by refusing to put them in preschool, but these years go by so quickly that I couldn’t bear giving them up any sooner than I have to. I love my sweet girl. I love how responsible and grown-up she is becoming, but I don’t love the fact that she doesn’t need me quite as much as she used to.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It’s still technically Thanksgiving weekend – at least for another fifteen minutes – so I’ll add to my blog a list of a few things I’m thankful for…
I’m thankful for a church that preaches the Truth. For preachers there who are faithful to call me to obedience, even when I’m not all that willing to hear it. For Gus, who reminded me today that I can’t really have fellowship with God unless I’m routinely confessing my sin.
I’m thankful to live in a place where Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean bundling up from head to toe. Where we can enjoy a sunny day at the park in shorts and t-shirts when most of the rest of the country is dealing with snow.
I’m thankful for Christmas decorations, which thanks to a compromise involving artificial trees and real wreaths, allows me to enjoy them from this Friday until the end of December. For a husband who indulges my love of all things Christmas by carefully hanging lights from every peak and corner of our home. Who then also remembers to turn them on and off each night.
I’m thankful for a boy and a girl who truly love their mama, and who are now old enough to say so without solicitation. Who make me laugh each and every day – even when they’re in trouble!
I’m thankful for a little girl very far away who someday will love us as much as we already love her. For a God Who is present “everywhere that man can be,” including the orphanage where she’s waiting for us.
I’m thankful for my big truck that faithfully shuttles us wherever we need to go. For Costco, Target and Baja Fresh, where it takes us most frequently.
I’m thankful for free babysitting in the form of grandparents, aunts and uncles, all within a 10 minute drive. For the lessons our kiddos learn from each of them, and the deficiencies in our parenting that those lessons help fill.
I’m thankful for nice bed-sheets, non-fat milk, tangerines, denim, Coke Zero, digital cameras, prayer, e-mail, Tylenol, my wedding, bean and cheese burritos, Romans, Tivo, and a million other things big and small that together make me one of the most blessed of women.
None of these things do I deserve, and yet most of them I take for granted. Even on Thursday I was so busy with Thanksgiving that I neglected to really give thanks. So, this little list is a case of “better late than never.”

Saturday, November 18, 2006

One of these days we'll have two little girls in this girly little room, so Alyssa got a new "step bed" for her birthday. The kiddos spent the night at grandma and grandpa's last night so Dan and I were up late (even for us!) painting and reconfiguring her closet, assembling the beds, and then putting it all back together so we could suprize her with it this morning. Her reaction was every bit as precious as we hoped, and she and Parker spent all day climbing up and around the new "toy." We knew that it was a hit when she asked to take her nap 2 1/2 hours before her normal nap time! Now all we need is another little girl body to fill the 2nd bunk!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I know many of you read this blog for adoption news and I haven’t written on the subject lately. “Why?” you ask…because there’s not much of anything to share. We’re still waiting for a referral. It’s been almost 4 months now since we’ve been on the waiting list (a year and 4 months since we started this crazy process!) and I try hard not to dwell on it, but I honestly go to sleep every night and wake every morning with that little girl we don’t even know on my mind. I mostly wonder how old she is and what she looks like. I guess because her age at referral will really influence our family dynamic – will we be caring for an infant or getting to know a toddler? And also because those are the two pieces of information we’ll be getting next. Once we have her picture and know her birthday I’ll probably start to wonder about what she’s like, who is taking care of her, under what circumstances was she given up, how she’ll fit into our family, etc. I’ll also probably get anxious about all the changes she’ll make between the time she’s referred to us and the time we get to pick her up. I never dreamt quite how much God would teach me about patience and trusting His timing through this process. I pray that I’m actually learning the lessons so that He won’t have to tack on any more! At this point we’re 2nd on the waiting list and also 2nd on the list for a girl 0-24 months. According to our adoption agency there may be some more children available in the next few weeks, but even they don’t know the sex, age or medical condition of those kids until the paperwork is actually in hand. It also seems like boys are plentiful and girls are not. So pray for patience! Alyssa’s birthday is coming up and she was pretty sure she would have a little sister in time for her party. We’re trying to manage her expectations but we’re all ready to see our new special girl – this mama most of all!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I loved Disneyland before we had kids, but it just keeps getting more and more fun! Alyssa and Parker are now old enough to know exactly what they want to do and see. We have annual passes so we really have routine now. Their new favorite is the rollercoaster in ToonTown. Parker is just barely tall enough and it's always touch and go whether we're going to get laughs or tears, but even on the teary rides he's smiling and telling you how much fun it was within 5 seconds of the coaster stopping. Of course, Autopia will always be one of our staples. This trip was even more exciting in that there was a little collision in front of us. The bumpers of the cars got stuck together so we got to walk out (see Parker below) - a real treat if you're two! Teacups are also a highlight - especially when your kids aren't yet strong enough to make them really spin. Alyssa was thrilled to find Ariel! She got to tell her all about the Little Mermaid party she's having for her 4th birthday this week. Parker still isn't too sure about the characters. He'll talk about them all day long, but when push comes to shove he prefers to keep his distance.

I thought I'd also include a couple pictures of another trip to the Magic Kingdom we took in September, if for no other reason than to make our friend Pecadillo ( jealous. Our dear friends J~ and L~ were able to get us into Club 33, an exclusive private club stashed away above New Orleans Square. You'd never know it's there except for the unassuming door pictured below. The food was incredible - to rival any fancy restaurant I've ever been too - and the service, well I'll just say that we were there for 3 hours and were never in need of anything. It's the only place in Disneyland where you can order alcohol, which almost prompted me to order a glass of wine, but I much prefer grape juice! We also had a great view of the Fantasmic fireworks show on the little balcony adjacent to our table. On top of all of that though, the highlight was just being somewhere that most people don't get to go and where we may never be able to go again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I love my little blog. It’s a fun fad, but I think the whole concept might just stick around. I love getting to share pictures of my precious babies with our friends around the country, across the street, and around the world. I love that they all know where we are in the adoption process without having to explain it over and over in person. I love having a place to vent my joys, my frustrations, my hopes, my thoughts about my God. I love my new blog friends and the odd way we’ve gotten to know each other via almost no direct communication. I would love my blog even if no one ever read what I wrote, but it’s also fun to see my site meter climb and see those dots accumulate, representing hits from all over. I love getting comments and trying to guess who those guests are who don’t leave comments. I love my readers – all of them, and hope that one day I might get to meet more of them in person. So thanks for participating in this little part of my life and for “listening” to all my ramblings today, over the past few months and for all the months to come.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Marathons are fun!? Dan ran his second marathon on Sunday, and it caused all of us to wonder why in the world people do these things. Never mind that it was easily 85 degrees, there is nothing about it that looked enjoyable. My dear husband admirably finished, though he admitted that quitting sounded like a good idea around mile 3. The only exercise I enjoy involves two skis, some snow, and a chair to sit in every 5 minutes or so. I can't even wrap my mind around the idea of running 26.2 miles. I have horrible memories from Junior High of that sinking, sick-to-your-stomach feeling every time I caught wind of the rumor that we'd be running a mile in P.E. Catch that: a mile. A mile is the farthest I've ever run at one time. Now I imagine that if my children were in real danger I could run 3 marathons to save them, but only something that catastrophic could motivate me to exert that amount of energy. Dan's ability to set aside his pain to press on for hours at a time, refusing to give up, adds one more to the list of things I love about him. I truly admire his fortitude of mind and body. I just don't think I'll be joining him.

We waited for Dan at miles 16 and 20... He was pretty glad to see his little cheering section! The kids provided much need encouragment and ran with him for a while. Of course, they're convinced that they ran a marathon too!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Two year-old boys are so fun! Or at least mine is! People always talk about the terrible twos. Well, Parker definitely is becoming more independent as he approaches the two-and-a-half year mark, but I think he’s even more enjoyable than he was at two-and-a-half weeks. Every stage so far, with both Parker and Alyssa, has been better than the last. When I was pregnant with Parker I was pretty sure he was a boy, but even when they confirmed it with an ultrasound I couldn’t imagine what life with a boy would be like. I had no brothers growing up – just one sister – and Dan and I both kind of thought that we would also be a family of girls. I didn’t know what I would do with a boy. They really are so different! From the time he was old enough to sit up he’s been interested almost exclusively in “boy” toys: cars, balls, trains, guns, while Alyssa has always been a nurturer, much preferring her dolls to any of the boy stuff we were careful to have around. I mention all this now just because I’ve been having so much fun with him lately! Of course I enjoy Alyssa too. I appreciate how smart, considerate, observant, conscientious, beautiful and sensitive to correction she is. She already seems so grown up! But I knew I would love being a “girl mommy.” I never imagined how much I could love a little guy. Parker is very much a mama’s boy. Maybe it’s because he’s the baby, but loves being with me, and that of course is endearing. He also loves his sister. I can see that in time they might start to get on each other’s nerves, but for now at least he really hates to be away from her. Together they love to put on little concerts for us. They each have a little guitar and will stand on their stage (a bamboo rug in our living room) and perform all their Sunday School songs. Alyssa is usually the leader, but Parker sings with all his heart. He knows the motions, attempts to sing all the words and really shouts it out when it comes to a part he knows well. He’s also a great talker. He has an unusually long tongue so some of his pronunciations are still hard to understand, but he doesn’t give up. Sometimes when I just don’t get what he’s trying to say, I’ll say “okay buddy” or “sounds good son,” but somehow he always knows that I’m faking it and he’ll continue to repeat himself until I get it. Fortunately, Alyssa is a great translator and can help me out if I’m really lost. Parker is a great sport. He’s quick to share and doesn’t usually complain if someone steals his toy. My little boy is still very little, which I love! At almost 2 ½ he’s still wearing some 6-12 month shorts. He loves to climb and jump, which is entertaining but a little scary at times. One day a few months ago I found him sitting on TOP of our upright piano, deftly using the keyboard and music rack as steps. He was strictly instructed about the danger of that stunt and hasn’t repeated it, but I did find him recently on top of his dresser. I guess I’ll need to watch him a little more carefully! I love the way he asks for “just a one” and “Please no consequences mama.” There are just so many little things about him that bring a smile to my face. Now I can’t imagine life without a two-year-old boy.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One of these days I promise I'm actually going to write something again, but for now, aren't Dorothy and the King of the Forrest adorable? We had such a great time Tuesday night trick-or-treating at our neighbors and playing the in bounce house and box city at Grace Baptist's Fall Festival. Since then the kids have sorted, counted and traded their candy at least 2 dozen times. They were also pretty excited that Gaga Margie (my mom) showed up as Glinda and that baby Linclon transformed into a scarecrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just a few cute pics from our cruise to Mexico. Aren't these babies darling?!

Good enough to make you wish you were dead… not in a morbid, suicidal way, but in a “wouldn’t it be great to be in heaven” way.

Sunday we celebrated our beloved church’s 50th anniversary (, and what a celebration it was! The morning service was devoted to great music, a video recounting the church’s history, a tribute to the remaining 6 founding members (who still are a precious part of our fellowship and hard at work for the kingdom), and a time to honor our 61 missionary families (all of which had been flown home for the occasion, as well as their bi-annual conference). But the best part of the day was the evening service. We don’t usually make it back at night, but we were inspired to make more of an effort from now on. It seems that the best musicians to ever be members of our congregation were there to bless us with magnificent, God-honoring worship. The better part of our time was spent praising in song the God who has made our church what it is. At one point, standing there, I honestly wished that God call us all home so we could begin an eternity of praising Him. I imagine that in heaven we’ll all sing with voices like Phil Webb and Diane Brown, complete with the full orchestra and choir – even Dan! Won’t it be wonderful to be free of our propensity to sin and totally preoccupied with the beauty of our Savior? I truly was sad to see the service end.
We also enjoyed another sweet film interviewing our pastor, his wife and their 4 grown children (who are all still members of our congregation), where they recounted their best memories of their 37 years among us. In a church our size, most of us are pastored by the leader of our fellowship groups more than by John MacArthur, so it was fun to see the more personal insights. My favorite was a conversation recounted by John: when his son Mark was in junior high, he approached his dad with this comment: “Dad, when you’re up in that pulpit you’re really something special, but the rest of the time, you’re not that special.” Of course, we love our Bible-teacher, but he’s just a normal guy who God has specially equipped for ministry.
Afterwards we enjoyed a 50’s-themed social on the patio (yes, in southern California it’s still warm enough for an outdoor evening event) complete with a classic car, old-fashioned candy, Dodger dogs, Coke in glass bottles and Creamsicles. The only unfortunate part (though it’s a blessing too) was that there were so many people you couldn’t fully appreciate the hard work that went into it. But thank you anyway to Lauren, Shannon, Shirley, and countless others! I noticed!
So all that to say, we have a great church and we had a great time celebrating our history. But even greater will be the day that the True Church is gathered together to forever celebrate His story - the story of His goodness and our redemption!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Alyssa had a hard time falling asleep tonight. Not surprising given we've just returned from a week-long cruise to Mexico where nap-times and bed-times were much less structured than normal. But her explanation for her sleeplessness tonight just about broke my heart: “I want Savannah, mama.” She was in tears missing the sister she doesn’t even yet know. We sat down and prayed with her, explaining that God will bring her to us when the time is exactly right and that God is taking extra special care of her until then. I’m not sure how comforted she was by all of that, but she was willing to smile and go to bed once she had Savannah’s special baby (with dark skin!) in her arms. If nothing else, it was good for me to have to explain it all to her and to hear Dan’s tender prayer about our new daughter. One of these days she’ll be home (in “three weeks” according to Alyssa – the very longest amount of time in her little mind) and all of this will seem like just a moment.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It looks like our wait might be longer than we thought…

On Thursday we received a letter from our adoption agency that indicated we might not know who our Savannah is for quite some time. They originally said we could expect to wait 1-3 months for a referral (adoption-ese for matching us with a child). However, our agency now expects that it could be as long as 6-9 months, with another 3-6 months on top of that before we can travel. So, my dreams of having her home before Alyssa’s birthday in November are definitely gone – we’ll be lucky to have her home by Parker’s birthday in June! Of course all of this is just a guess. Since Vietnam has only recently re-opened adoptions with the U.S., even our agency is in the dark about when referrals will be coming in. I’m hoping they are dead wrong and that they’ll get at least a few babies soon. We’re 3rd on the list for a girl, one of which is waiting for a baby under 12 months, so if two toddler girls became available we’d presumably get one. Needless to say I’m hopeful, but more than a little bummed. All of this just highlights one of the things I’ve found to be most difficult about this process: the total lack of control. At least when you’re pregnant you can eat right, see your doctor, see the baby through ultrasounds, take your vitamins, etc. Even when you’re trying to get pregnant you can take your temperature, monitor your body’s signs, and all the other fun things that those of you who have experienced even temporary infertility can relate to. But with adoption, once all of your paperwork is complete, it’s entirely in someone else’s hands. Even worse, those hands are often attached to the arms of our woefully inefficient government or a foreign, communist government. Now, I don’t intend to say that I have actually had any more control over the safe arrival of my two biological kids. I just felt like I had more control. So in that way it is good for me to be forced to more consciously depend on God. It’s also God’s great providence that I studied Romans all summer. In chapter 13 verse 1 He reminds us that there is “no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). God can certainly orchestrate all of the issues standing between us and our daughter, and He will bring her to us in His perfect time. He’s promised in Psalm 84:11 that “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” So the fact that Savannah is not home yet means that her presence is not the best thing for us right now. I’m just hoping and praying that she will be the best thing for us SOON!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Have I mentioned how spoiled we are?

Some dear friends have a beautiful ski boat they insist we use with them far more often than we deserve. This weekend we all went up to the Sacramento River Deltas, a pretty remarkable maze of waterways, some of which are large enough for ocean-going vessels (see the tanker in the background). We had great weather, even better water, and a lot of fun. As you can see, I'm finally getting a little more comfortable on a single ski. The best part was that Dan couldn't even get up on one! He'll kill me for mentioning that, but you must understand that I am NOT athletic and he most definitely IS... so this is a major victory! In his defense, he has only wakeboarded the last few summers, and it is a totally different feel, but it's still fun to gloat. The kids were just angels. We truly abused them, cutting out all but the shortest of naps and keeping them up quite late, but they seem to love the boat too. They never fall asleep on us anymore, so it was a real treat to have them cuddle on us so much. This will probably be the last trip of the season, but then we do have wetsuits, so who knows?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

I was planning on writing tonight about cute my new nephew is and how much my children adore him. But then I saw this picture on the website of a woman from our agency who is in Vietnam right now picking up her second daughter. This is the bed little Ella slept in up until last night. The new parents report that most of the children’s heads are completely flat in the back. They sleep with no padding, no blankets, no pillows, no teddy bears. There are no doors and no glass in the windows. There is no air conditioning and no real protection from the elements. Some of the kids were covered with bites from a recent flying ant infestation. Now, I must also say that the parents report that the children appear to be relatively healthy and well-loved. In fact, one has complained that their daughter was quite spoiled from being held almost constantly by either her caretaker or one of the teenagers in the orphanage. From the pictures I’ve seen, the kids look happy. It’s actually quite normal for those who are adopted to grieve the loss of their “home” and nannies. But it truly is heartbreaking for me to see how much our daughter is doing without. Of course, material possessions are not everything, but the lack thereof is even more evidence of how little anyone cares for these precious lives. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to take only one. Unfortunately, they won’t let us take more than one unless they’re twins (which I’m still praying for!). So consider this my plea to each of you, my readers. Adoption is certainly not easy - I personally think it’s much more difficult than pregnancy/labor/all of that – but God has called every believer to care for the fatherless. The sheer volume of instruction in Scripture regarding their plight, as well as His model of the institution of adoption when He called us His children (see Ephesians 1: 4-5), ought to be enough to convince us that we have to do something. In my mind, it’s comparable to our responsibilities regarding foreign missions: go, or support those that do. Okay, please don’t take this as a solicitation for donations to our cause – God has graciously provided for the financial aspect of our adoption – but there are families who want to adopt, but who simply can’t swing the fees. There are organizations out there that would turn your donation into a grant for a Christian adoptive family in need. Even better though: consider adopting a child yourself. Already I can tell you, it’s worth it! We get to be a part of God’s plan, but we also will soon (I hope!) get to enjoy the blessing of the love of a sweet little girl. It’s not just about her you know =). So think about it. Pray about it. Don’t just dismiss this as something for other people. Maybe a little Asian baby, or African baby, or Eastern European baby is in God’s plan for you too!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A few thoughts from Bible Study:

  • A song that really touched me:

    Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
    Would look on me with love, and watch me rise again
    Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done
    Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are
    I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow
    A wave tossed in the ocean, vapor in the wind
    Still You hear me when I’m calling
    Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
    And You’ve told me who I am, I am yours…

    I’m not sure who wrote it, or where to give the credit, but I’ve quickly grown to love it. It has a great melody, but the best part for me is the last line of the chorus: “I am Yours.” I’ve often thought about belonging to God in the sense that I am His servant and I owe Him my life. While that is true, this song really emphasizes God’s gracious choice of me as the object of His affection. It actually reminded me of how I felt before I met and fell in love with Dan: I wanted to be loved in spite of my faults. Of course Dan has and does do that, but God does it perfectly! He knows my deficiencies even better than Danny does, and each of them is an assault on His holy character, yet He still loves me. Ephesians 1: 4 says “He choose [me] in Him before the foundation of the world, that [I] should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (emphasis mine). In the same way, God chose Israel. Deuteronomy 7:7-8a explains “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples, but because the LORD loves you”. What a gracious and loving God we serve!

  • A verse that jumped out: Deuteronomy 10:18 “He administers justice for the fatherless…” I think maybe only an adoptive mom could be brought nearly to tears at this passage. God knew I would need to be reminded that He is in control of this adoption process. Today I spoke with Jynger, the program director at our agency, and she confirmed that we’re not any closer to being matched with a child than we were last month. There are still two families in front of us who are waiting for a girl – though one of them has requested a baby under 12 months, so we would be second in line for an older baby. The other one has already been waiting 3 months, so I’m trying to prepare myself for the fact that we could be waiting longer than the original 1-3 month quote. How great it is to know, though, that God cares for our orphan even more than we do. He knows who she is, where she is, who’s feeding her, changing her diapers, giving her hugs. He’ll bring her to us at exactly the right time, and until then, will literally administer the justice that stand between us.

  • A student who always makes me laugh: our friend Shannon. She’s writing a book. Who knows if it will ever actually be published, but the title is priceless. I’ll share it here… hopefully she won’t mind. “99 Reasons Not to Go In the Ocean: the ocean is a beautiful and powerful thing, but so are volcanoes – that doesn’t mean you should go in them” She’s considering a second sub-title, which I also think is hilarious “Why would you keep going in something that’s just trying to throw you out?”

Friday, September 01, 2006

The scariest word in Christendom for me: evangelism. So how excited was I when our Bible study shepherd, Joey, announced he was preaching on the subject last Tuesday? Not very. His text was II Timothy 1:7-8a “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…” This is a passage I’ve memorized many times over the years, but it’s just amazing to me how God’s Word can reveal new truth through the same “old” text. Not that the meaning changes or is intended to mean something different for each person. The Holy Spirit just has a way of helping us understand it better every time we apply ourselves to the truth. So Tuesday, God used Joey to convict me of my cowardice when it comes to sharing what I believe. First of all, the word translated “fear” really means timidity – God doesn’t want me to be timid, but bold. Secondly, the message of the gospel is “power”-ful. It alone holds the power to convince the lost of its truth, and He has equipped me with the power to accomplish His will. Finally, “sound mind” speaks to the fact that the Christian ought to be disciplined in thought and life, with each aspect of life properly prioritized. Now here is where my thinking was really changed on Tuesday: the context is evangelism. I know… not earth-shattering news… all you have to do is read verse 8 to figure that out. But I had never before thought about how my priorities affect my evangelism. We talk about what we know about, whether it be the latest reality show, our jobs, our families, or Christ. We also talk about what is important to us. If God really is first in my life and I’m continually learning more about Him as He’s revealed in Scripture, He will be on my mind and on my lips. Evangelism will be the natural overflow of a life devoted to Him. Not something that I have to manufacture or set out to do as if it were a separate, exclusive activity. So, to those of you that know me, listen to what I say and let me know where my priorities are. Ask me if I’ve been willing to talk to those around me about the Truth. You can then tell me how much I really learned on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We have a boy!!!

Lincoln was born last night to my sister, Sarah, and brother-in-law, Brian. He is so sweet, so adorable, and such a red-head! We weren't altogther suprized by the color, but shocked at the volume. While not quite like my two, who came out with loads of dark hair, his head really is covered with soft orange fuzz. Sarah is doing well too, and we're having such fun cuddling this healthy little one. Alyssa, as you can see, was ready to help do surgery. For weeks now she's been busy packing a diaper bag full of diapers, wipes, pacifiers, toys, changing pad, keys, candy - you name it - to assist with child care as needed. Of course, when it actually came time to change Lincoln's first diaper, the idea proved to be more alluring than the act!

Parker was also a very excited cousin. All of the adults there waiting for the opportunity to hold the new one, had their arms nearly worn off holding the older kids up to see through the window. Parker spent all morning saying "see Lincoln!" and practicing gentle kisses. I think he likes the idea of being the big guy.
It was especially precious to watch Brian fall instantly in-love with his son.
I, of course, am enamored too. Not only with my precious nephew, but with my amazing God who skillfully crafts these little people in ways that not even the most brilliant scientists can understand. I'm baffled by the way my body works and simply stunned by the way those same functions happen in miniature and so shortly after birth. What a shock to leave the comfort and safety of a mother's body, and then to so quickly adapt to light, air, noise, hunger, pain, touch. Only God's mercy and grace can explain the fact that life happens at all. Lord, "I will praise You, for I (and Lincoln!) am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).